In recent months, we have seen a rise in matters involving identity theft. Identity theft is an indictable offence that is punishable by more than 12 months’ imprisonment. For a Commonwealth identity crime offence, someone only needs to intend to pass themselves off as another person, regardless of whether they actually do or not.
Not only is this a serious crime for those who perpetrate the offence, it can also be a very stressful and overwhelming time in someone’s life that is the victim of identity theft.
Examples of victims of identity theft are when your birth certificate is used by someone else to falsely claim a payment from Centrelink in your name or a person pretended to be you by using your identification details. This could be used to set up bank accounts intended to be used for fraudulent purposes in your name, using or obtaining credit cards in your name or, in this modern era, creating ‘after pay’ service accounts in your name.
Victims of identity theft are not often aware that they are a victim until they start receiving bank account statements that have not been created by them, letters of demand for debts that they have not incurred, or other documents setting out circumstances or situations that do not involve the victim and that the victim is unaware of.
If you have been a victim of identity theft, you should report the matter to the Police and obtain an event number. If the police are unwilling to assist in the matter, submit a report with the Australia Cyber Security Centre HERE. If legal demands are being made to you, you should obtain legal advice in relation to appropriately responding to the demands made on you.
If you are able to determine what identity document the perpetrator is using to pass off as you, for example your driver’s licence number, you might want to consider requesting to change your licence number with your relevant Roads Authority.
To change identity details, you might be required to provide, and would be able to apply for, a Commonwealth Victim’s Certificate.
A Commonwealth Victim’s Certificate may be provided to a victim of identity theft by a state or territory magistrate. The Certificate records the name of the victim and describes the circumstances in which the person has been a victim of identity theft.
Once a Certificate is issued, you may provide the certificate to organisations or businesses to support your claim that you have been the victim of identity theft and this may also help you to negotiate, re-establish your credentials or remove fraudulent transactions from your record.
Whilst the Certificate does not compel businesses or organisations to take any particular action, and cannot be used in any legal proceedings, it does help you to rebuild rapport with the business or agencies that you are experiencing trouble with and can help support your version of events with those respective agencies and businesses.
If you have been a victim of identity theft and need or want to obtain a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team to determine how we might best be able to assist you.